Baseball Wiki
Field of Dreams
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Charles Gordon
Music by James Horner
Distributed by Universal
Release date(s) April 21 1989
Running time 107 min.
Language English

Baseball field from the movie.

Field of Dreams (1989) is a movie about a farmer who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice that he is supposed to construct a baseball diamond in his corn field. It stars Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, and Frank Whaley.

The movie was directed and adapted by Phil Alden Robinson from the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

The character played by Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, was a real baseball player. The background of the character is based on his true life, with a few factual liberties taken for artistic reasons.

The fictional author Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) is based on the reclusive author J. D. Salinger. Salinger was the author sought out by the main character in the original novel. In 1947, the real Salinger wrote a story called A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All, featuring a character named Ray Kinsella. Also, a minor character named Richard Kinsella appeared in Salinger's most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye.

The restored relationship between protagonist Kinsella and his father is notable for making male viewers cry. Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Goulston, writing for the October 2005 issue of Readers Digest, quotes psychologist David Powell "There's a 95% tear factor when a group of men watch Field of Dreams... Sports is the archetypal bond between men and their fathers, and for most men the most primitive, important relationship in their lives is with their dads."

The baseball field built for the film has become an attraction with the same name.


Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is an easygoing guy who married his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), and bought a farm in Iowa. At the movie's beginning, Ray is out in his cornfields at dusk, trying his best to be a farmer. In the corn, he hears a strange voice say, "If you build it, he will come." After hearing the phrase several more times while his family does not, he begins to ask other farmers if they hear similar voices. All the other farmers think Ray is possibly losing his sanity.

One day, Ray hears the voice again, but this time sees a vision. He sees a baseball field instead of his cornfield and sees "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) standing in the field. Ray tells Annie that the message means he must uproot most of his lucrative crop field to put in a baseball diamond so Jackson will come back from the dead and be able to play again, after being suspended from baseball in the 1920s. Annie is skeptical but tells him to follow the vision, after Ray convinces her that his father never did one spontaneous thing in his life . As he begins to uproot his crops, Ray tells his daughter, Karin, that Jackson was one of the eight infamous "Black Sox" members from the 1919 Chicago White Sox team who threw the World Series. Other farmers and residents watch in shock as Ray uproots his crop. After months of work, the field is built ... but no one comes. A whole year passes, shown by the director by the changing of seasons, and the bills begin to pile up as less crop to sell means much less money for the Kinsella family.

One night the next summer, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson appears in the field. Ray goes out and meets him and the two pitch to each other. This scene is in silence, creating a mood of awe. Ray is shocked but overjoyed at the supernatural happening. After they're done, "Shoeless" Joe walks into the corn again and vanishes, after asking Ray "Is this heaven?". He returns later and brings friends with him to play - other members of the 1919 team. As the bills continue to mount for the Kinsellas, Annie's brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield), tells Ray that he will soon go bankrupt and must sell the farm, as he, and many others, are unable to see the mass of deceased baseball players taking themselves to the field.

One night, Ray hears the Voice again, this time telling him to "Ease His Pain". On a hunch, he discovers that the "him" refers to prominent 60s author Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones). Ray drives from Iowa to Boston to meet with Mann, without knowing why or what to do. Mann is very abrasive at first, as he wants no visitors, but Ray soon convinces him to simply go to a baseball game at Fenway Park. At the park, Mann expresses his frustration that people still turn to him for answers, although his time as a leader (the 60s) has passed. While sitting at Fenway, the Voice speaks again, telling Ray to "Go the Distance". On the scoreboard, Ray sees what no one else can, statistics for a 1920s minor leaguer named Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Minnesota, who played in one Major League game with the New York Giants, but never got to bat. Ray asks Mann about the scoreboard, but Mann claims not to have seen anything.

Ray drops Mann off back in Boston and thanks his for his time, unsure of where Mann fits into things. Mann then suddenly steps out into the street in front of the car and says "Moonlight Graham" out loud, alerting Ray to the fact that he did indeed see the scoreboard. He then repeats, "go the distance", confirming he heard the voice as well. Mann says he thinks the newest message means to go to Minnesota and find Graham, who will now be an old man. The two make the long journey by van, bonding in the process.

On the trip, Ray explains that his father was an avid baseball fan (and player). His father's favorite player was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. In Ray's angst ridden teenage years, he refused to play catch with his father and finally told his dad, "I can't respect anyone whose hero was a criminal" before walking out (this insult from Ray had to do with Jackson's involvement with the 1919 Black Sox scandal).

The pair arrive in Minnesota, and ask around for Graham. They find out much about him (through old friends and library articles), only to discover that he was a town doctor who passed away several years ago. Late that night, Ray is walking around in the town, and finds that he has somehow been transported to 1972 (as evidenced by the "Godfather" movie marquee, a Nixon re-election poster, and a 1972 license plate), when Graham was still alive. He sees Graham out for a walk- recognizing him by the umbrella people had said he always carried- and approaches him. Graham (Burt Lancaster) is a kind man, who says he wished his time in the majors would have led to just one at bat, during which he could wink at a Major League pitcher, and make him think he (Graham) knows something the pitcher doesn't. Graham then says he can't travel to Iowa, and that his wish will have to remain a wish. He tells Ray the real tragedy would have been if he'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes.

By the time Ray returns to the hotel room he and Mann share (which happens off screen) he has returned to the present. Ray and Mann leave for Iowa, confused as to why they made the journey to Minnesota. On the way home, they pick up a young hitchhiker, who identifies himself as a minor leaguer named Archie Graham - it's actually a spiritual incarnation of a young Doctor (or Doc) Graham. They take Graham back to the field in Iowa, where dozens of dead players have now congregated for night games. Young Graham suits up and gets the chance to have his one all-important major league at bat. Mann is amazed at the "field of dreams."

The next morning, Ray, Mann and the family are watching the players of yesteryear practice when Mark shows up again, telling Ray that he's bankrupt, and needs to sign the sale papers now or he gets nothing when the bank forecloses in a few hours. Unlike Ray and the rest, Mark cannot see the players on the field. Ray debates signing it, because it appears he has no choice. He's told not to by both his daughter, Karin, and by Mann, who gives a speech on why he may be able to keep the farm yet:

"Terence Mann: Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

When he gets frustrated, Mark accidentally knocks over Karin, who falls from the top of the stands and starts to choke on a hot dog. As the unconscious Karin starts to turn blue, Ray looks to the field, where young Archie Graham is watching and realizes what to do. Graham steps off the field of dreams and becomes the elderly Dr. Graham, who walks over and helps Karin clear her windpipe. At that moment, Mark sees the players on the field and immediately says "Don't sell this farm, Ray. Do not sell this farm."

Doc Graham, for his part, cannot return to his youthful incarnation, but assures Ray it's all right. He thanks Ray for giving him the chance to realize his wish. Then, as the other players offer him well wishes, Doc crosses the diamond and disappears into the corn.

After this, the players decide to call it a day and return to the corn. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson remains behind and asks Mann if he wants to come into the corn field and see what's on the other side, which may be (the afterlife) (This is unclear, since Shoeless Joe's conversation with Karin when they first met ("are you a ghost?" "What do you think?" "You look real to me." "Then I guess I'm real.") suggests he isn' t a ghost, while another player tells Ray that he died in 1970. In the commentary track, director Phil Alden Robinson indicated it wasn't really important where the players went when they disappeared, or whether they were actually ghosts). Mann agrees to accept the invitation, finally seeing that his background as a writer is his place in the adventure, as he can write about the tale and see the other side. Ray, upset, says that he should be the one to go into the corn, as he sacrificed everything for the field of dreams. After Mann points out that Ray has a family while Mann is unattached, Ray apologies and insists on a full report. Mann walks up to the corn, and after some hesitatant exploration by gingerly sticking his hand in, steps into the corn field with a laugh.

After Mann has left, "Shoeless" Joe tells Ray, "If you build it ... HE will come", and nods toward another player- a catcher- and the only one besides Joe who hadn't gone into the corn with the others. The player removes his catcher's mask, and Ray recognizes him as his father as a young man. The catcher approaches Ray, Annie and Karin, introduces himself as John Kinsella, and thanks them for building the ball field. Ray, in turn, introduces Annie and Karin, saying to Karin, "this is my- this is John." Annie and Karin then go inside and Ray and John talk for a moment. Then John says goodnight. As he starts toward the corn, Ray calls to him, "Hey, dad? Wanna have a catch?" John replies, "I'd like that."

As Ray and John toss the ball back and forth, the camera pulls back, and in a helicopter shot, we see a long line of cars approaching the field, as both Karin and Terrence Mann had predicted.

Fade out. Roll credits.


  • In the cast portion of the end credits, it says The Voice is played by "Himself"
  • The original working title of the movie was the same as the book, Shoeless Joe, before it was renamed by the studio. Author W.P. Kinsella later reported that his original working title for the novel itself was Dream Field. Kinsella liked the title Dream Field, but his publishers made him change it to Shoeless Joe.
  • During the filming, in the summer of 1988, the Midwest was stricken with a severe drought. Water was brought in to irrigate the cornfield and make it look good for the movie. The act of plowing the healthy corn under, to build the ballfield, was met with real-life bewilderment by area farmers whose crops were suffering from the rainless summer.
  • Because of that drought, the outfield grass on the baseball field died and turned brown, and had to be painted green.
  • In the scene where Shoeless Joe Jackson talks to Costner's character about his teammates joining him, fog is seen creeping out of the corn field and across the diamond. This was not a special effect — the fog had actually come in at the time.
  • "Is this Heaven?" became a bumper-sticker slogan for Iowa for some years thereafter.
  • The line, "Hey, Dad, you wanna have a catch", originally didn't include "Dad". Test audiences were disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement of father and son, and the word "Dad" was looped in during post-production. Also, there appear to be regional variations across the U.S. regarding whether people say "have a catch" or "play catch". Kevin Costner grew up saying "play catch" and was worried that the line with "have a catch" sounded weird and would be unfamiliar to audiences.
  • The real Joe Jackson was a rural Southerner, while Ray Liotta spoke with a northern city accent. Liotta also batted right-handed and threw left-handed, while Jackson batted left-handed and threw right-handed. These were known facts to the producers, who decided not to do as was done in The Pride of the Yankees, wherein Gary Cooper was filmed batting right-handed and then the film was flipped to simulate the left-handed Lou Gehrig.
  • This was the second consecutive year that Kevin Costner had played a baseball-oriented character with a love interest named Annie. In 1988 he had starred with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in Bull Durham.
  • Burt Lancaster was unaware that Timothy Busfield was part of the cast, and had him fetching water and chairs before realizing Busfield was going to be in the scene with him.
  • One subplot is that Lancaster's character wanted to have at least one at-bat in the majors. When given his chance, he provides a sacrifice fly, which by today's official MLB scoring rules is not recorded as an at-bat, though rules regulating scoring decisions on sacrifice flies were changed several times over the first half of the 1900s.
  • According to supplementary material on the DVD edition of Field of Dreams, shortly before filming of the movie began, the father of actor Dwier Brown, who played Ray Kinsella's father, had died. Immediately after the funeral, Brown traveled directly to filming in Iowa for the scene. He stated that although the emotion was too fresh and painful, it had an effect on how he eventually played his scene with Kevin Costner.
  • The diamond's outfield was much smaller than a regulation ballfield would have been. MLB dimensions require a minimum of 325 feet to the foul poles and 400 feet to straightaway center, although in Jackson's day the legal minimum all around was only 250 feet.
  • The "Clean Shaven Umpire" listed in the closing credits was played by a member of the production team who normally sported facial hair. He has one speaking line in the film. After batter Archie Graham asks "how 'bout a warning?" referring to the pitcher throwing beanballs, the umpire says, "Sure...", looks at the pitcher briefly, then turns to Archie and says, "...Watch out you don't get killed!"
  • The movie's line "If you build it, he will come." was voted as the #39 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
  • Among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scenes were a then-unknown Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
  • People from the local community were used as extras. Radio personality Paul Hemmer was an uncredited extra when he appeared as the husband who held "Beulah – the Angry PTA Mother" back after Annie asked her if she wanted to step outside. Local businessman and Iowa lawmaker Paul Scherrman also appeared as an additional ballplayer.
  • The Field of Dreams movie site has become the destination for thousands who travel to Dyersville each year in true "life-imitates-art" fashion to see if there is any magic in the Iowa corn. That pilgrimage is chronicled in Tim Crescenti's video Dreamfield and in Brett Mandel's Is This Heaven? The Magic of the Field of Dreams (2001, Diamond Communications).
  • "The Final Shot" was a big community event, enlisting 1,500 volunteers to drive for the last scene. For only a brief time could the headlights and also the blue of the sky be shown in one shot. The first take was too bright. On the second shot the lighting was perfect, but the camera f-stop was not functioning properly. Just before the third and final shot, the director realized that as with any heavy traffic, most of the cars weren't moving. They would just look like lights on posts. He relayed a quick instruction through the local radio station: flash your high beams on and off. Though the cars are not moving, this simulated the appearance of lights passing behind obstructions to perfect effect.

The Bleachers and the House


Downtown Dubuque

Places featured in the film[]

Except for a few location shots for Boston, notably Fenway Park, much of the film was shot in and around Dubuque County, Iowa. The home and field were on adjoining farms near Dyersville, Iowa. The field was retained as a tourist attraction. The house is a private residence. Other places that were used in the film were:

  • Dubuque was featured in the following:
    • University of Dubuque- Kevin Costner's character Ray looks up information on Terence Mann in the school library. When Ray and Annie are walking to their truck Blades Hall and the Van Vliet main administration building are shown.
    • Hendricks Feed. The store where Ray had gone to purchase supplies is located in downtown Dubuque.
    • Terence Mann's apartment and neighborhood - This was located near 17th Street and Central Avenue in Dubuque.
    • Airline Inn. This roadside motel is about three miles south of Dubuque along US Highways 61/151. This is the motel where Ray and Terrance stayed while traveling to Minnesota.
    • Downtown gas station. The gas station where Ray gets directions to Terence Mann's place was originally just south of the intersection of 3rd and Locust Streets in Dubuque. The gas station is no longer there, torn down to facilitate economic development.
    • Zehentner's Sports World. In one of the scenes cut from the final movie (outtakes available in the 15th Anniversary Commemorative DVD), Ray buys equipment at a local sporting goods store and discovers its employees are the first people who don't think he's crazy. Now since closed after 60 years in the business, Zehentner's was located near 9th and Main.
  • Farley, Iowa. The PTA meeting about Terence Mann's books was at Western Dubuque Elementary/Jr. High School, in Farley.
  • Galena, Illinois - Galena was used to represent parts of Chisholm, Minnesota.

The film used local roads quite extensively to represent the drive from Dyersville to Boston, Boston to Chisholm, and Chisholm to Dyersville. The following are some of the local roadways used:

  • U.S. Highway 20 - Part of the highway between the Illinois towns of East Dubuque and Galena was used to represent the drive from Boston to Chisholm. The Citgo station where Ray and Terrance stopped was along the highway west of Dubuque. When Ray and Annie are driving home from town, parts of the highway west of Dubuque are shown.
  • U.S. Highway 52 - Parts of the highway north of Dubuque were used in the drive from Chisholm to Dyersville.
  • U.S. Highway 151 - A portion of this highway that is about six miles south of Dubuque is seen in the scene where Ray and Terrance are in the van and talking about Ray's father.

External links[]